DINERS DONE RIGHT
Bored with chain restaurants? Tired of overpaying for fussy food when all you really want is something simple at a fair price? There are a ton of great local joints serving cheap, tasty eats, but if you're not careful, you might drive right past them. We scoured the country for some of the best hole-in-the-wall diners, all of them longtime favorites with even longer lists of regulars. Here are 50 top picks across the country.
ALABAMA: BIG TIME DINER
What people say: You can't beat the blue-plate specials — your choice of meat and three sides — at this unassuming diner with its retro clock sign. The service also wins raves from diners in reviews.
What to order: Southern classics like the fried fish and turnip greens. Got a sweet tooth? Finish off your meal with a classic banana split.
ALASKA: DUNCAN HOUSE DINER
What people say: There's no question you're in Alaska when you get a glimpse of this diner with its traditional totem pole out front. There is also nostalgic, retro decor along with a breakfast and lunch menu packed with diner favorites.
What to order: When in Alaska, do as the locals do and order the reindeer sausage. Reviewers also recommend the French toast.
ARIZONA: TOM AND SUZIE'S DINER
What people say: This homey little spot in an old Pizza Hut is a great spot for some hearty, unfussy food on Route 66. The menu has a little bit of everything, including diner classics, plus pasta, Asian, and Mexican dishes.
What to order: Try the patty melt or the BLT. But be sure to save room for the homemade pies, reviewers say.
ARKANSAS: THE NEIGHBORHOOD DINER
What people say: There's not a whole lot of elbow room at this roadside diner with its red-checkered floor, but there's enough good food to make up for the tight quarters. In keeping with their old-school style, this diner takes only cash or checks.
What to order: Go for some biscuits and gravy with a side of hash browns if you're stopping in for breakfast. Later in the day, down a chili dog or the Frito Pie.
CALIFORNIA: NICK'S COFFEE SHOP
What people say: Nick's is a beacon of simplicity in a city that has its fair share of glitz and glamour. There may be a line, but it's worth the wait for one of the best breakfasts in town. Don't forget to spend a few minutes checking out the wall of family and celebrity photos.
What to order: One of the house specialties, corned beef hash served up with eggs, inspires a ton of raves. Pancakes are another favorite.
COLORADO: KING'S CHEF DINER
What people say: Colorful King's Chef, housed in a hard-to-miss purple castle, is where you come when you have a serious appetite. The portions are massive, and just about everything is smothered in gravy or cheese. If the line is too long, don't worry; there's a second location in town.
What to order: The one and only breakfast burrito (which once got a shout-out from the Food Network) is stuffed with sausage, eggs, onions, hash browns, and shredded cheese. Top it off with gravy or Colorado green chili.
CONNECTICUT: BLUE COLONY DINER
What people say: In a state full of great diners, longtime favorite Blue Colony hits all the right notes. It's family-run, open 24 hours, and caters to all tastes with a massive menu, in-house bakery, and extensive selection of wine, beer, and cocktails.
What to order: The French toast, made with homemade challah bread, or one of the Greek specialties like spanakopita or a gyro wrap. Take one of the enormous apple turnovers to go.
DELAWARE: HOLLYWOOD GRILL
What people say: It's hard to go wrong with the huge menu and hearty portions at Hollywood Grill, devotees say. Despite the name, there's nothing flashy about the decor and family-friendly atmosphere. The food is the real star.
What to order: The large Greek salad comes highly recommended, as do most breakfast options.
FLORIDA: DANNY'S ALL-AMERICAN DINER AND DAIRY BAR
What people say: Don't miss this roadside takeout joint, where you'll find the outdoor seating often crowded with locals. Your food will be served in foil and white takeout cartons for a modest feast under the trees.
What to order: You can't go wrong with a burger and onion rings, or a chili dog, devotees say. The Food Network's Guy Fieri recommends the Triple Play burger. It's topped with mojo pork, pastrami, Swiss and American cheese, jalapenos, French-fried onion rings, tomatoes, and mustard.
GEORGIA: THE SILVER SKILLET
What people say: Featured in movies, TV shows, and commercials, The Silver Skillet looks every bit the old-fashioned Southern diner. The menu of tried-and-true favorites matches the retro atmosphere at this Atlanta landmark, which has been operated by the same family since 1967.
What to order: Regulars love the country ham and red-eye gravy. Finish off with a slice of lemon icebox pie.
HAWAII: HAWAIIAN STYLE CAFE
What people say: This is the spot for traditional Hawaiian favorites in family-sized portions at prices that aren't as inflated as other restaurants in this tourist hotbed. Travel and Leisure gave it a shout for "biggest pancake in the tropics."
What to order: Loco moco, a classic Hawaiian mashup of white rice, egg, gravy, and a hamburger patty.
IDAHO: JIMMY'S DOWN THE STREET
What people say: This is the place to go if you're craving from-scratch cooking in a family atmosphere. There may be a line to get in, but locals say it's worth the wait.
What to order: Stop in for an Irish benedict, which is jalapeno cornbread topped with corned beef, eggs, and Hollandaise. The massive Southern pecan rolls are a meal by themselves.
ILLINOIS: DALEY'S RESTAURANT
What people say: One of Chicago's best greasy spoons, according to Eater Chicago, Daley's serves old-school favorites like patty melts, steer's liver, and roast turkey breast, plus a dizzying list of daily specials.
What to order: Reviewers recommend starting (or ending) your day with the can't-miss chicken and waffles.
INDIANA: HISTORIC STEER-IN
What people say: Diner favorites like the Twin Steer burger, coleslaw, and coconut cream pie have been on the menu at the Steer-In, a modest time warp of a spot on Indy's east side, since the 1960s. Cozy up in a worn booth or head through the drive-through. There's even online delivery.
What to order: The much-lauded Hoosier tenderloin sandwich: breaded or grilled fresh pork tenderloin with lettuce, tomato, and mayo on a bun.
IOWA: THE FORT DINER
What people say: Blink and you might miss this tiny mom-and-pop diner, just a stone's throw from the Mississippi River in southeastern Iowa. Seating is limited, but reviewers say this modest spot is worth the stop. Bring cash; credit cards aren't on the menu.
What to order: The diner's specialty is the gut-busting Wallyburger, made with a pound of ground chuck, grilled mushrooms and onions, American and Swiss cheese.
KANSAS: THE DOO-DAH DINER
What people say: Though it's only been around since 2012, Doo-Dah Diner has the feel of a beloved local institution. The cheerful yellow dining room is the perfect spot for the scratch-made comfort food.
What to order: Breakfast is definitely the star here. Regulars love the banana bread French toast and the crab cake Benedict.
KENTUCKY: PEPPER POD RESTAURANT
What people say: Open 24 hours, the Pepper Pod has been feeding its regulars since 1956. You'll find wall-mounted jukeboxes in each of the booths. Smokers (and nonsmokers) take note: smoking is still allowed everywhere inside.
What to order: Go for the biscuits and gravy, or eat like a local and get the goetta, an old-school German-American mashup of oats, pork and beef scraps, and spices.
LOUISIANA: CLOVER GRILL
What people say: The Clover Grill is a Bourbon Street staple for greasy eats no matter the hour. It's open 24/7 for early birds and night owls alike. Just grab one of the red stools and watch the short-order cooks get down to business at this corner diner.
What to order: Grab a burger, the self-proclaimed "world's best." Other favorites include the tater tots and grits.
MAINE: MOODY'S DINER
What people say: This family-owned diner got its start in 1927, and you'll get the full New England diner experience by stopping in: "The wait staff is pure Yankee," one reviewer says. And if you want to stay, there are 18 guest cabins available.
What to order: Live a little and start with a piece of pie just so you know you'll have room — it's that good, devotees say. Go for the 4-Berry, a mix of raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, and blueberry.
MARYLAND: MARIE'S DINER
What people say: It's hard to beat unassuming Marie's for big portions of reliably good diner staples. Sometimes there's a wait during breakfast, but reviewers say it's worth sticking around.
What to order: The pancakes, country-fried steak, and scrapple all get frequent mentions. Pick up some of the massive eclairs on your way out the door.
MASSACHUSETTS: SOUTH STREET DINER
What people say: Open 24/7, South Street Diner is the place for people of all walks of life to grab some comfort food. This classic chrome-clad corner diner has been feeding Boston since 1947.
What to order: The Monte Cristo is the way to go for breakfast, according to Thrillist. The site also recommends the banana bread and grilled cinnamon rolls.
MICHIGAN: ROXY CAFÉ
What people say: From its snarky signs and slogans to the ceiling papered with advertisements for local businesses, Roxy Café is truly a local treasure. Go with a big appetite, and a healthy sense of humor.
What to order: Reviewers sing the praises of the corned beef hash, home fries, and the heaping three-egg omelets.
MINNESOTA: AL'S BREAKFAST
What people say: This narrow dive with its 14-seat counter has been serving breakfast to hungry college students near the University of Minnesota since 1950. You'll know your food is made from scratch because they "don't have space" for a freezer or a microwave.
What to order: You can't go wrong with the blueberry pancakes, available with or without walnuts. Top them off with pure Minnesota maple syrup.
MISSISSIPPI: BLUE & WHITE RESTAURANT
What people say: The aptly named Blue & White is indeed blue and white all over, from the exterior to the checked floor, chairs, and booths inside. It's been a local favorite since 1937 for homemade Southern favorites from black-eyed peas to catfish.
What to order: Diners say the fried green tomatoes are reliably delicious. Other specialties include the fried chicken and fresh doughnuts.
MISSOURI: EAT-RITE DINER
What people say: There's often a wait for a stool at this tiny time warp of a diner, which is open from 6 a.m to 12 a.m. After the longtime owner closed it in October 2017, a local couple bought the place and reopened in April.
What to order: Try a slinger, a breakfast concoction of meat (usually sausage), eggs, potatoes, chili, cheese, and onions.
MONTANA: WESTERN CAFÉ
What people say: Billing itself as "the last best café," Western Café "was established before most folks around here were even born," according to its website. Don't be surprised to find this unpretentious little spot packed with locals who have been coming for years.
What to order: Chow down on the chicken-fried steak, biscuits and gravy, or oversized cinnamon rolls.
NEBRASKA: HI-WAY DINER
What people say: Day or night, Hi-Way Diner will be open to feed you, and breakfast is served at all hours. You'll find everyone from college students seeking a late-night haven for studying to post-bar revelers and early-morning regulars.
What to order: The Hot Stripper sandwich (yes, it's a sandwich), three chicken strips smothered with sausage gravy served open-faced on grilled Texas toast.
NEVADA: MEL'S DINER
What people say: Mel's is the place you'll want to stop for a solid breakfast or lunch when you're heading to or from Death Valley. Bring your appetite for the large portions, and cash to pay the bill — no credit cards accepted.
What to order: Breakfast staples like the pancakes and omelets are reliable bets.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: LINDY'S DINER
What people say: Local favorite Lindy's is always busy, especially during New Hampshire's presidential primaries. This diner has hosted candidates George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Fortunately, most reviewers say the food lives up to the political hype.
What to order: Lindy's says its famous patrons gravitate toward clam chowder, mac and cheese, and Salisbury steaks.
NEW JERSEY: TOPS DINER
What people say: This diner gets the nod as one of America's best from Food and Wine magazine, which praises its "novel of a menu" and long list of cheesecakes. Portions are huge, devotees say.
What to order: Before diving into the cheesecake, try a burger or the chicken and waffles.
NEW MEXICO: KAP'S COFFEE SHOP AND DINER
What people say: Since 1968, unassuming Kap's has been a Route 66 staple for fresh, authentic diner fare at affordable prices. Regulars say the service is great, too.
What to order: The menu includes plenty of New Mexican takes on breakfast staples like huevos rancheros, carne adovada, and breakfast burritos. And don't miss the cinnamon rolls, reviewers say.
NEW YORK: ODESSA
New York City
What people say: Called a "gloriously tacky Ukrainian dive" by New York Magazine, Odessa caters to all walks of life in the East Village with its massive menu. It doesn't have any of the polish or cool of other downtown restaurants, and regulars say that's exactly why they keep coming back.
What to order: Try traditional favorites like blintzes or boiled pierogies, both served with sour cream or applesauce.
NORTH CAROLINA: SMITH STREET DINER
What people say: Known for its massive "cat head" biscuits, Smith Street Diner serves all-day breakfast, plus lunch and dinner, too. Go for the country-style fare and plan to stay awhile because it will take time to plow through the huge plates of food.
What to order: The homemade corned beef hash, served with two eggs, comes highly recommended. If you go for the biscuits, be sure to smother them in the homemade apple butter.
NORTH DAKOTA: DEANER'S DINER
What people say: Formerly known as TNT's Diner, Deaner's got a new name when it changed hands. But the new owners kept most of the longtime menu and preserved the diner décor. Regulars say the service is top-notch.
What to order: Biscuits and gravy are great for breakfast, but the hot beef sandwiches are the star at other times of the day. Save room for homemade pie or apple crisp.
OHIO: THE SPOT
What people say: The Spot has occupied the same spot in downtown Sidney since 1907 and the current structure has been standing since 1940. The decor is as much a feature as the food; the last renovation was in 1976.
What to order: The homemade onion rings and pork tenderloin sandwiches are popular at lunch and dinner, but it's the pie that really keeps regulars coming back. The old-fashioned cream pie is a house specialty.
OKLAHOMA: CLANTON'S CAFE
What people say: Need a break from cruising historic Route 66? This is the place to stop. Despite its unassuming interior, it's been featured on Food Network, and patrons say the food is worthy of the attention.
What to order: The chicken fried steak earns plenty of raves. If you're feeling more adventurous, try the calf fries, otherwise known as deep-fried bull testicles.
OREGON: OTIS CAFE
What people say: It's not often that a greasy spoon can wrangle a James Beard award, but this one has. Reviewers are complimentary of nearly all of the made-from-scratch food Otis churns out.
What to order: Reviewers say the German potatoes (hash browns fried with onions, baked, and topped with cheddar and green onions) can't be beat.
PENNSYLVANIA: THE DOR-STOP RESTAURANT
What people say: This longtime mom-and-pop diner has been a mainstay in for three decades in this tight-knit Pittsburgh suburb. Though it recently changed hands, the new owners have kept everything the same, much to regulars' relief.
What to order: Some devotees say the pumpkin hot cakes are so delicious already that syrup is simply unnecessary. Another indulgent breakfast favorite: stuffed raspberry French toast.
RHODE ISLAND: THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE DINER
What people say: It's not quite in the middle of nowhere; the diner is just a stone's throw from I-95 in the southwest of tiny Rhode Island. In the summer, you can also grab some ice cream at the Next to Nowhere Creamery next door.
What to order: Clam lovers, take note: The clam chowder and clam strips come highly recommended.
SOUTH CAROLINA: OJ'S DINER
What people say: The slogan here is "Just good food," and reviewers say that's exactly what you'll get at family-owned OJ's. The menu is packed with Southern favorites including fried okra, pork chops, and grits.
What to order: The fried fish and cornbread have a lot of fans. Please your sweet tooth with a heaping serving of banana pudding or peach cobbler.
SOUTH DAKOTA: ROSIE'S CAFE
What people say: Operated by the same family for more than three decades, Rosie's is the kind of hidden homey little spot that regulars are reluctant to publicize because they want it to themselves.
What to order: Lunch specials rotate, but have included down-to-earth favorites like beef stew, liver and onions, and meatloaf. Breakfast is simple fare like eggs and toast, hash browns, and biscuit and gravy.
TENNESSEE: MARCY JO'S MEALHOUSE AND BAKERY
What people say: Crammed into a ramshackle-looking little house with a tin roof and modest porch, Marcy Jo's proves you can't judge a book by its cover. Inside, the country cooking is anything but shabby, and the décor is surprisingly quaint, with twinkling lights and tin signs lining the walls.
What to order: Take your pick: Diners love the biscuits and gravy, fried bologna sandwiches, and catfish. And the cinnamon rolls are legendary.
TEXAS: BLUE BONNET CAFE
What people say: This classic Texas café opened in 1929 and moved to its current location in 1946. Drive by and you'll miss out on award-winning fare, including a much-lauded breakfast menu.
What to order: If you love pie, there's an entire happy hour devoted to it — stop in weekdays from 3 to 5 p.m. The lemon meringue inspires a lot of raves. Other favorites include pot roast and chicken fried steak.
UTAH: ANGIE'S RESTAURANT
What people say: Angie's bills itself as the place "where the locals eat," and reviewers say that's true. If you're feeling adventurous, try the Kitchen Sink Challenge, a 3-pound ice-cream sundae. Finish the whole thing and you'll earn bragging rights and a bumper sticker.
What to order: One of Angie's specialties is its scones; choose from traditional, cinnamon and sugar, or cheesecake. The chicken also comes highly recommended.
VERMONT: HANDY'S LUNCH
What people say: Open since 1945, family-run Handy's is a local landmark near the shores of Lake Champlain. It's a favorite for breakfast and lunch among locals who linger at the counter and chat up the cooks and the other regulars.
What to order: The Big Daddy breakfast is popular for anyone who wakes up hungry: You'll get enough eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, and pancakes to skip lunch. The Super G breakfast sandwich also has plenty of fans.
VIRGINIA: BOB & EDITH'S DINER
What people say: Open 24 hours, this old-school diner is the antidote to the avalanche of hipster restaurants that abound in the D.C. area, devotees say. Stop by for "everything you want for breakfast or lunch, and none of the fluff."
What to order: Come in for the around-the-clock special: steak and eggs (choose from ribeye, filet, or strip) served with home fries, grits or hash browns, and toast. Reviewers also say the milkshakes are to die for.
WASHINGTON: JOE BROWN'S CAFÉ
What people say: "We are still alive and kicking," proclaims Joe Brown's Café, which opened in 1932. Come in for the all-day breakfast and take in the classic diner style, with green vinyl booths and swiveling stools at the counter.
What to order: The Fried Thing, a breakfast sandwich made with fried ham, fried eggs, and melted cheddar on grilled sourdough. It comes with hash browns and a waffle, pancakes, or French toast.
WEST VIRGINIA: MARY B'S
What people say: Downhome comfort food is served in abundance at Mary B's. Whether you stop in for breakfast, lunch, or diner, the portions are generous – just take a gander at the massive dinner rolls.
What to order: Reviewers love the baked steak, which comes swimming in homemade gravy. Get the mashed potatoes for a side.
WISCONSIN: FRANK'S DINER
What people say: "Be nice or leave!" That's the motto at this unpretentious spot, housed in a converted railcar. Reviewers say it can get crowded, but it's worth the wait.
What to order: The "garbage plate" of eggs mixed with hash browns, green peppers, and onions. It's served with a choice of meat or corned beef hash and cheese, as well as toast.
WYOMING: J'S PRAIRIE CAFÉ
What people say: J's Prairie Rose Café says it's the place to go when you want "good food fast." Reviewers agree, saying this busy, family-owned joint is the perfect mix of tasty food, good service, and low prices.
What to order: The breakfast burrito, served with a heaping amount of shredded cheese and homemade green chili sauce, is a thing of beauty. The cinnamon rolls are also beloved.